UK is first government to agree 20 years of legally-binding drastic cuts in carbon emissions

16/5/2010 Guardian Ministers believe that commitment to wind power and other green energy sources
will attract investment to Britain.Cabinet ministers have agreed a far-reaching, legally binding “green deal” that
will commit the UK to two decades of drastic cuts in carbon emissions. The
package will require sweeping changes to domestic life, transport and business
and will place Britain at the forefront of the global battle against climate

The deal was hammered out after tense arguments between ministers who had
disagreed over whether the ambitious plans to switch to more green energy were
affordable. The row had pitted the energy secretary, Chris Huhne, who strongly
backed the plans, against the chancellor, George Osborne, and the business
secretary, Vince Cable, who were concerned about the cost and potential impact
on the economy.

However, after the intervention of David Cameron, Huhne is now expected to tell
parliament that agreement has been struck to back the plans in full up to 2027.
He will tell MPs that the government will accept the recommendations of the
independent committee on climate change for a new carbon budget. The deal puts
the UK ahead of any other state in terms of the legal commitments it is making
in the battle to curb greenhouse gases.

With the Treasury and Cable’s business department sceptical, green groups had
feared that ministers would refuse to back the committee and were accusing them
of reneging on Cameron’s promise to lead the “greenest government ever”. But
with Clegg and the Liberal Democrats desperate to boast a success on one of
their key policies, supporters of a deal won the day. A government source told
the Observer: “This is a victory for the cause of enlightenment over the dark
forces at the Treasury.”

Another senior government figure said: “This country is now the world leader in
cutting carbon emissions. We are the only nation with legally binding
commitments past 2020.”

This point was also stressed by David Kennedy, chief executive of the committee.
“We have moved into uncharted territory and are going to be watched carefully by
other countries. No one else has a target like this.”

The new budget puts the government on target to meet a reduction by 2050 of 80%
of carbon emissions compared with 1990 levels. The committee has said that to
reach this carbon emissions should be cut by 60% by 2030.

Ministers believe that major companies involved in developing offshore wind
technology – such as Siemens, Vestas and General Electric – will now be keener
to invest in Britain, knowing it is committed to a huge expansion in renewable
energy. It is also hoped that the commitment to renewable energy – the committee
says 40% of the UK’s power should come from wind, wave and tide sources by 2030
– will stimulate new industries.

These would include the development of tidal power plants, wave generators and
carbon capture and storage technology – which would extract carbon dioxide from
coal and oil plants and pump it into underground chambers. All three
technologies, if developed in Britain, could be major currency earners.

The committee’s report says the new carbon deal will require that heat pumps
will have had to be installed in 2.6m homes by 2025. It also says that by the
same date 31% of new cars, and 14% of those on the road overall, will be
electric. Experts say a total of £16bn of investment will be needed every year
to meet the commitment. Some of this money will be raised through increases in
electricity prices.

However, failure to act now and decarbonise electricity generation would mean
the UK would have to pay even more to replace power plants in future. “If we
have to pay more in future that will slow economic growth, so we need to act
now,” said Kennedy.

The decision to back the carbon budget comes a year after Cameron announced that
his government would be the greenest on record, a claim that last week led the
heads of 15 green campaign groups to write to the prime minister to tell him he
was in danger of losing his way on environmental policy.

The letter said the coalition should promote a green economy with “urgency and
resolve” if it was to honour its promise. The groups include Greenpeace, Friends
of the Earth and the RSPB.

Tuesday’s expected announcement is certain to be welcomed by green groups though
they will fear further backtracking in years to come. Huhne recently announced
plans to invite green lobby groups in to scrutinise policy in order to hold
ministers to their promises. They have been impressed with parts of the
government’s programme, including progress on establishment of a green
investment bank.
Go to: